Gubernatorial Debate Recap

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Political analyst Chris Herstam gives perspective on the recent gubernatorial debate.

Ted Simons: Last night's gubernatorial debate here on "Horizon" included some strong words and some awkward moments. It also illustrated how the candidates differ on a number of issues. For some perspective on the debate, we're joined by Chris Herstam, a former state lawmaker with a long history in state politics, he was chief of staff for governor Symington and served on the transition teams for both Republican and Democratic governors. Today, he's in charge of government relations for the law firm of Lewis and Roca. Thanks for joining us.

Chris Herstam: Thank you.

Ted Simons: General thoughts on the debate last night?

Chris Herstam: Well I think Barry Hess actually was the most eloquent. I thought he was very good. But I think overall what will be remembered from the debate forever is Governor Brewer's performance in the first minute and then frankly, the impromptu news conference right after the debate. It was painful, that first minute of her opening remarks. I've never quite seen anything quite like that. The awkwardness and the 13-second pause and so forth and that's all over websites. "The Washington Post," etc. and it's being talked about a lot. And afterwards, when she got upset with the local media right outside of the studio, when you were asking her about the beheadings issue and she was upset with their questions and turned around and walked away and they groaned and so forth. That's the kind of thing we might see in some campaign commercials later in the campaign.

Ted Simons: The idea of style in general, and obviously, the early part, the opening statement is something that everyone is focused on. But in general, the style, from all the candidates but seems like the governor in particular, talk about how much that impacts folks watching and listening to a debate.
Chris Herstam: Well you know when you look at polling data. I've taken to many political science courses over the years, most debates don't change a lot of viewers on who to vote for. The Brewer people, will stick pretty much with their candidate no matter the performance and the same with the Goddard folks. Really it's the undecided voters or the independent voters that the candidates worry about. I think the governor's style was a bit shrill. A bit condescending at time and the opening and end of the debate afterwards in the news conference and those are things that I'm sure she's not pleased about. I thought Goddard had command of the issues. He's a trained lawyer and used to this. And you would expect him to be a bit smoother. Or someone who is supposedly 19 points behind in the polls, he didn't go for the jugular as I would have expected him to. I think he needed knockout punches and I don't think he delivered it.

Ted Simons: One issue in particular, I want to get to. But first, I want to show a piece of tape, a part of the debate and this dealt with education and how to fund education. Let's roll that and we'll talk about it later.

Jan Brewer: Terry, where's your plan? Where are you going to get this money?

Terry Goddard: My plan is out on my website, we're going to grow the economy. That's what needs --

Jan Brewer: You have no plan.

Terry Goddard: You're the governor and you need a balanced budget and you haven't done that yet.

Jan Brewer: Terry, Terry, you know, you're the attorney general, you have to have a balanced budget. Read the constitution, you should know that. Of all people you should know that and we balanced the budget. Make no doubt about that.

Terry Goddard: You're budget was $450 million out of balance and it took 10 months to do it. It was $150 million out of balance and --

Jan Brewer: Terry, Terry, Terry.

Terry Goddar: Today your --

Jan Brewer: Terry, Terry, Terry --

Ted Simons: That kind of exchange. When people watch that at home, what are they seeing?

Chris Herstam: I think they're seeing Goddard using facts and figure, the lawyer. A debate preparation, that skill. Where the governor seems condescending, treating him like a child and that was a strategy on her part do so but I don't think it plays well.

Jan Brewer: The idea you have no plan worked well for the governor in the primary debate for governor. She basically won that thing in part because she said, you have no plan. Give me your plan. And it shut a lot of people up at the table. Did it work last night?

Chris Herstam: I don't think it worked as effectively with Goddard. Buzz Mills it worked well with, and it was true. He had to plan. And Goddard, he has the facts and numbers memorized and the long website and it's harder to make that stick.

Ted Simons: Another piece of tape from the debate. This one dealt with private prisons and after we watch this, there was something not mentioned in this exchange that you were surprised about. Let's roll that one.

Jan Brewer: The private prisons and the classifications were put in place years ago and then reviewed again in 2005. And Terry Goddard signed off on the new classifications to allow those classifications, those classified prisoners he just related to go into the Kingman prison.

Terry Goddard: That's not true.
Jan Brewer: And Terry Goddard did that without any public hearing or anylegislative oversight.
Terry Goddard: You know that's not true and it's on your watch that the haven't centimeters were moved to a facility -- criminals were moved to a facility design for DUIs. They never knew it was going to be anything different. 400 violent offenders moved to that facility.

Ted Simons: Ok. That was a bit of a gotcha by the governor, a response by the attorney general. But before the show, you were talking about how the attorney general could have gone for the jugular in that moment. Explain.

Chris Herstam: Well I think there's stories this week about the Goddard campaign, and channel 5 has done investigative reporting that's been on national shows, about gubernatorial staff that are lobbyists for private prisons and this is a hot issue. The Goddard people think it is. But he never mentioned your own staff is benefiting or whatever. Perhaps, perhaps the Goddard people thought that was too inside baseball and perhaps going to let other individuals and websites and stations go -- they were doing a good job of going after that so they didn't need to do that. So Goddard kept with the facts and statistics and what happened in the Kingman prison and so forth. I thought Goddard was pretty effective on that issue. I thought that was his strongest issue, the private prison issue is probably the best issue he has going right now but is that enough to make up a 19-point deficit? I question that.
Ted Simons: Most folks seem to think if you read the pundits and they're throwing in opinions right and left that the attorney general did better in this debate than the governor. This was done on September 1st, the election isn't until November 2nd. That's a lot of water still ahead of us here. Talk about a debate of this magnitude this early in the campaign.

Chris Herstam: I don't know exactly why it was chosen to be this early. Maybe that's the only date the Brewer people had available and so clean elections had to go with it, but the fact it came so many weeks before early voting starts, it will probably a lot forgotten. If Goddard was privately financed and could take clips from this debate and like we saw and Tom Horne did against Andrew Thomas where they kept running and running it. Then it would get legs in this debate. But they have a million from clean elections and that's not a big buy, and it will be harder for the Goddard people to get out. One thing they're probably counting on because the governor's performance has gotten so much national publicity maybe that will excite the democratic party and they may come in with some independent expenditures and give her performance some legs.

Ted Simons: The poll numbers have to change. Nobody gets excited 19 points down.

Chris Herstam: I think Goddard has a enormous mountain to climb. For two reasons, the first the illegal immigration issue. The governor has this issue down cold. She's been on the fox news network and national networks and they want to talk about it and she's done it and she's prepared and the fact that it's such a popular bill, S.B. 1070, and national and here in Arizona and all she has to say is, Terry, Goddard, you were against that bill. That's all she has to remind people of and that hurts him. And the big plus that she used skillfully, is just wrap him up in Barack Obama. Barack Obama, President Obama, approval rating in Arizona is only 39%. According to the latest polls. Nationally its 46%. I'm told that Arizona has the worst Obama approval rating in the country and the Republicans know that and they're going to wrap every Democrat they can in the Obama administration. So illegal immigration and Obama, two -- two issues that Goddard is going to have a mighty tough time overcoming.

Ted Simons: Before you go, a quick clip from the person that started the conversation talking about, and that's libertarian candidate, Barry Hess, by many -- by a lot of accounts did fairly well. Let's watch.

Barry Hess: I was for private prisons, I'm all about privatization and I've had second thoughts because of this and probably there's a place in some circumstances. Maybe for the drunk drivers or the minimals, but -- I'm having reservations, the state should be in control of their prisons.

Ted Simons: A libertarian being reflective on the idea of private prisons, that a moment.

Chris Herstam: And he assisted Goddard on that issue. Questioning whether the private prisons are running amok, he helped Goddard. But Barry Hess has run for governor three times and he's got it down well and he was impressive last night.

Ted Simons: Where do the campaigns go from here?

Chris Herstam: Goddard will try to drive home the economic issue, the lost jobs. Frankly, Polling say that people don't blame governors, they blame presidents. But he'll try and stay away from mission and as I mentioned, Brewer, it's Obama and immigration, and she's going to keep riding that horse probably to the finish line and probably successfully.

Ted Simons: Chris good to see you, thanks for joining us.

Chris Herstam: My pleasure.

Chris Herstam:Political Analyst;

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